Snow Widows: Scott’s Fatal Antarctic Expedition Through the Eyes of the Women They Left Behind by Katherine MacInnes

Snow Widows: Scott’s Fatal Antarctic Expedition Through the Eyes of the Women They Left Behind by Katherine MacInnes.


The men of Captain Scott’s Polar Party were heroes of their age, enduring tremendous hardships to further the reputation of the Empire they served by reaching the South Pole. But they were also husbands, fathers, sons and brothers.

For the first time, the story of the race for the South Pole is told from the perspective of the women whose lives would be forever changed by it, five women who offer a window into a lost age and a revealing insight into the thoughts and feelings of the five heroes.

Kathleen Scott, the fierce young wife of the expedition leader, campaigned relentlessly for Scott’s reputation, but did her ambition for glory drive her husband to take unnecessary risks? Oriana Wilson, a true help-mate and partner to the expedition’s doctor, was a scientific mind in her own right and understood more than most what the men faced in Antarctica. Emily Bowers was a fervent proponent of Empire, having spent much of her life as a missionary teacher in the colonies. The indomitable Caroline Oates was the very picture of decorum and everything an Edwardian woman aspired to be, but she refused all invitations to celebrate her son Laurie’s noble sacrifice. Lois Evans led a harder life than the other women, constantly on the edge of poverty and forced to endure the media’s classist assertions that her husband Taff, the sole ‘Jack Tar’ in a band of officers, must have been responsible for the party’s downfall. Her story, brought to light through new archival research, is shared here for the first time.

In a gripping and remarkable feat of historical reconstruction, Katherine MacInnes vividly depicts the lives, loves and losses of five women shaped by the unrelenting culture of Empire and forced into the public eye by tragedy. It also reveals the five heroes, not as the caricatures of legend, but as the real people they were.

My Review:

So much over the years has been written of the ill-fated expedition by Captain Robert Falcon Scott and his men to the South Pole, they risked so much to explore places and suffer the extreme hardships. But what of those left behind? In Snow Widows: Scott’s Fatal Antarctic Expedition by the Women Left Behind (William Collins) by Katherine MacInnes tells the story of the five women whose lives were thrust into the limelight.

With access to family records and years spent researching the lives of the five women, what the author has put together is superbly written account that for the first time gives the account of the five women behind the men who set off to explore the Antarctic for their country and the empire. But who were the women?

Kathleen Scott was the young wife of Captain Scott and the leader of the team, Oriana Wilson, wife of the expedition’s doctor, Emily Bowers, Mother of Henry Robertson Bowers, Emily Bowers had travelled the world as a missionary teacher, Caroline Oates, Mother of Lawrence Oates and Lios Evans, the wife of Edgar Evans. In the 1948 film Scott of the Antarctic Edgar Evans was played by James Robertson Justice.

The expedition became known as the Terra Nova expedition after their ship Terra Nova and the expedition covered the years 1910-1913. Sadly, the bodies of Scott and his team were found on 12 November 1912. Now the wives and mothers of the men were thrust into the spotlight. Snow Widows is an incredibly fascinating read with so much historical detail and photographs that have not been seen before. The story of the five women and the sacrifices that they made from assisting with the fundraising and lobbying. These are their stories and for the first time are now being told.

512 Pages.

My thanks to Alison Menzies and William Collins for a copy of Snow Widows by Katherine MacInnes which was published on 14 April 2022 and is now available in Hardback through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through that supports your local independent bookshop. UK

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